Back in the early 1970’s, when I had just become a Christian, two or three men had a major influence in my life – Clive Calver, though who I was saved; Graham Kendrick, who’s love, patience, and spiritual insight got me set free from a lot if the past; and David Pawson, a Baptist Minister then unlike any other I came across in years. His Bible teaching provided a foundation for my faith that I still live with today.
In the seventies, I began working for Youth for Christ in my spare time, in East Sussex, and organised among many other things, a monthly charismatic teaching evening as many of the village churches had no input on anything to do with the Holy Spirit. I approached David with fear and trembling as he was SO well known, with such a worldwide ‘famous’ teaching ministry. Never dreamed he’d come to Pilgrim Hall in rural East Sussex to speak to 300 people!
He did. Regularly. As a result we became friends, a friendship that strengthened and bonded in 1981 when British Youth for Christ organised a controversial nationwide tour, ‘Let God Speak’ where David spoke 32 times in 36 nights about hearing God’s voice and what he was saying to the church. It was incredible.
Why we grew so close is that I was his driver for the tour – from places like Inverness to Plymouth to Belfast to Cardiff – all over the Uk. Sitting in the car with him, I just soaked up what he was saying, and when he wasn’t saying anything just soaked up the presence that was around and in him.
Another tour on the ‘Normal Christian Birth’ followed, and I was with him again. At the end of 1983 I left Youth for Christ and went for a period of study time at Roffey Place Christian Training Centre. David was one of the main lecturers during the first term: it was amazing stuff.
It was also funny, because he was so well known and so well read, at coffee and lunch breaks all the students wanted to ‘corner’ him and pump questions into him (maybe some wanted to disagree but I don’t think so!). My little students’ quarters was close to the lounge, so David would come to my room to hide, and we’d just chill, relax, and laugh.
David said back then he got asked by a lot of young people ‘how do I speak in tongues’ and David was happy to admit he didn’t have an easy answer. So I said I could help him – just get them to say certain phrases over and over, quite quickly…. ‘Like what?’ he said.
‘Make mine a shandy’, ‘Must have another rubber dinghy’, ‘She came on a Honda’ – and many other stupid phrases – by which time David was roaring with laughter, got out his notebook and wrote them down, saying he’d use them! I often heard him say them in sermons after that, still laughing, but finding that it was a great tool for unlocking people’s fear of speaking of tongues!
He wasn’t JUST a great Bible Teacher either: he had a lot of words of wisdom, knowledge, and prophecy, which I was to benefit from early in the 2000’s. I needed advice on a critical issue, so phoned him to ask if I could go and see him. Never dreamed he say ‘yes. come tomorrow, but don’t tell me what the issue is’.
When I arrived, we sat in the lovely living room overlooking the duck-pond in his garden and he said, ‘God’s shown me 8 things’ and then went through them. He’d got the whole story from the Lord, and said ‘Paul, you’ve got to leave (church name) immediately before it crushes you’. Needless to say I resigned that night from the church!
David was a gentle man – but when he had words that were hard, it was still with gentleness but in reality there was no way you couldn’t act on them. I have many of his books, CDs, tapes, which will stay with me forever.
A wonderful man, a blessing to heaven following his promotion there yesterday, and the loss of a loyal friend to many here on earth.